Large Firms Dominate Ethereum Validation After Merger

Many of the benefits promised by the Ethereum merger have come true, including a more than 99% reduction in energy use and its carbon footprint. But analysts who had sounded the alarm about increased centralization before the transition remain concerned that relatively few entities dominate the proof-of-stake mechanism that now underpins the blockchain.

“[The] top 7 entities controlling >2/3 of the stake is pretty disappointing to see tbh,” tweeted Martin Köppelmann, co-founder of DeFi platform Gnosis.

He posted a chart showing Ethereum staking service Lido handling more than 27 percent of stake-based Ethereum validation, followed by crypto exchange Coinbase with more than 1[ads1]4 percent.

A recent Dune Analytics report confirmed that the two biggest players in Ethereum currently are Lido with 4.16 million ETH (30.1%) and Coinbase with 2 million ETH (14.5%). The remaining stakers, classified as “other”, have 3.65 million ETH (26.5%).

Decentralization is a major goal of crypto and Web3. The fact that Bitcoin is “sufficiently decentralized” is the main reason it has stayed out of the crosshairs of US regulators.

If participation in Ethereum validation becomes too centralized, security experts note, the possibility of a “51 percent attack” becomes more than theoretical. Furthermore, dominant parties could be pressured to censor transactions on the blockchain – although Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has said that such a scenario would see his company get out of the betting business.

Unlike proof-of-work, which requires a significant amount of hardware and energy to profitably mine and maintain a blockchain network, proof-of-stake depends more on users buying, holding, and staking large amounts of the network’s cryptocurrency. Some critics have described the merger as a move towards centralization.

Now that Ethereum is based on Proof of Stake, validators with at least 32 ETH can stake or pledge to the network, instead of relying on miners. Smaller groups can create staking pools to combine their ETH to become validators or join an exchange that offers staking.

“You shouldn’t bet with an exchange,” Ethereum core developer Micah Zoltu warned in a recent interview with Decryptt. “It’s hurting the network instead of helping, and the return on investment at the moment probably isn’t worth it.”

Zoltu recommends users stake their ETH with their own Ethereum node, which Ethereum holders can do on a personal computer. “It is possible for anyone who has a sufficiently good computer, electricity and internet,” he said.

Meanwhile, Köppelmann pointed out that top crypto Bitcoin also has a centralization problem.

“No, dear Bitcoin fans, it is not better in Bitcoin,” he tweeted. “Actually you only need 4 units to get to >72%.”

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